I will never forget the small workshop on the corner of a small street in Lahore, Pakistan. It was underground and three workers were busy stitching and embroidering. I could see the craftsmanship and skill that was in their minds and showing through their hands. I also knew the conditions they likely lived in – and wanted to do something to help improve their lives and their families’ lives.

I have spent a lot of time in Lahore where my family comes from, and it is a vibrant city, filled with talent like the workers in the workshop. However, an unfortunate problem of poverty also plagues this city and country, and I was exposed to it when I visited the workshop. Being able to help them would not only help preserve this talent but also showcase it to the world.

Like other teens, I have a few passions that I enjoy working on alongside my schoolwork. I have brought together my passions for art, design, and helping others together through my project, a clothing line called Layela.

I created and have been working on this for two years, since I began high school. I design my own clothing line and oversee the production process in Pakistan. I am lucky enough to have a cousin there, who is also a designer and has graciously helped me so much along the way. I sketch the designs myself and send along fabric and color references, which I pick out based on availability, to her workshop.

My clothing line is comprised of a variety of tops, both casual and dressy, as well as some jackets, a dress, and headbands. The clothes also reflect details from my own artwork; for instance, one of my tops features embroidery from a flower I drew. I hope to appeal to many customers with this range of products, while maintaining the trendy and sophisticated style of Layela. Once the clothes have been made, I work on marketing here in the U.S. to the target customer, using the popular craft makers’ website, Etsy. The final step is making sure the order is custom made for each customer, in both size and specific elements.

An important component of the project is the focus on social entrepreneurship. Seventy-five percent of profits from the project benefit the manufacturers back in the workshop. These people work incredibly hard and I want to give back to them so that their lives can be improved.

Recently, I have made a lot of progress with sales and I hope to use the funds to provide better air conditioning or a generator to support the workers. The project has allowed me to be creative while also making a difference. I have made mistakes and learned important skills along the way but I am grateful for these lessons. I hope to continue making a positive difference in the lives of others through my passion of design, while also bringing people from opposite sides of the world together in these challenging times.

My Etsy shop can be accessed at this link: etsy.com/shop/layela.

(The writer is in high school in Atherton, Calif., and is a budding designer. She has launched her clothing line, Layela, which brings together her love of art and design, and her passion for fighting poverty. The clothes are stitched in Lahore; and she intends to support local labor by donating the profits.) 

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